Peaas: Driving Innovation In Fintech

Mehul Desai, Group Chief Technology Officer, Finablr

Mehul Desai

Group Chief Technology Officer, Finablr

The fintech sector is one of the fastest-growing areas in the technology space. In 2018, the amount of money invested in fintech businesses doubled to reach $111.8 billion worldwide, according to consultants KPMG.

And that means the growth and potential rewards for fintech success stories such as PEaaS, a Finablr company ­ with an Indian heritage and a global presence ­ could be enormous.

The sector's impressive expansion has been driven by a combination of increasing customer expectations and improving technology.

If someone can use their smartphone to summon a taxi, watch a movie, or order food, they will also expect to use it to send money or open a savings account, apply for a mortgage or message their insurance company.

"There is an arms race underway across all customer-facing business sectors. But we provide a slick, seamless and completely engaging digital customer experience backed by a secure transaction infrastructure that keeps people coming back for more," explains Mehul Desai, Group Chief Technology Officer at Finablr, a leading global platform for payments and foreign exchange solutions.

Both Finablr and PEaaS have a relentless focus on understanding what customers want, and that's what drives the exceptional services they are able to deliver at scale.

The power of the platform
Finablr made a splash in May this year when it listed on the London Stock Exchange. It holds many financial services businesses under its umbrella: Travelex, Unimoni, Remit2India, Xpress Money, and others ­ all of which are leading brands and first-class innovators. With a global reach across 170 countries, Finablr companies processed a staggering $115 billion in volume for its customers in 2018.

Via proprietary technology and an omnichannel proposition, the Finablr businesses serve more than 25 million consumers and more than 1,500 corporate and institutional partners.

All this is made possible by an integrated platform, which creates significant economies and efficiencies of scale at the same time as driving continual growth.

The platform is underpinned by agile and scalable technology combined with operating capabilities, including a sophisticated treasury system, a customizable rules engine and a payments processing infrastructure. It also includes robust compliance and risk management capabilities.

The result is a platform that spans the full spectrum of the payments value chain, from origination and processing to distribution, all attuned to market nuances and regulatory requirements.

A force for innovation
The reality of doing business in a fintech-enabled world is that established financial services firms are competing against nimble competitors offering customers instant gratification, constant updates and the kind of ease-of-use they take for granted.

Continual innovation is needed to meet those expectations, and that is where Finablr has excelled.

It is exploiting its global strengths by pooling capabilities across its network, including its global regulatory alignment and its competencies across the payments value chain.

The unique combination of its technology platform ­ and the deep insights it has into customer behaviour ­ enables the firm to spot trends and offer products that are truly relevant.

For example, in October 2018, two brands within the Finablr network (Swych and Travelex) partnered with China's messaging and mobile payments app WeChat to launch Travelex Pay. This is a service for travellers from mainland China visiting the US. Aimed
at simplifying cashless spending, Travelex Pay enables WeChat Pay's 800 million customers to use digital gift cards offered by Swych at more than 200 US retailers.

"We're only able to create services like that at scale because of the power of the platform we've created," explains Desai. "Ultimately this is a business where technology and scale are the core differentiators and these are both sweet spots for us."

A unique roadmap for product development
The ability to bring together international businesses and offer them benefits from a shared platform has been a personal mission for Desai, a US-based serial entrepreneur who co-founded C-SAM (acquired by MasterCard in 2014) and numerous ventures in the fintech sector, before becoming the Group Chief Technology Officer at Finablr.

Pushing forward with technology-driven business solutions calls for a complete focus on achieving the right end result. Otherwise, the development of the technology and tools can start to distract from the business goal itself.

The PEaaS approach to development, with its closely-knit team members working in PODS and its focus on agile methodologies, enables Finablr to deliver fintech services at scale

One of the elements that support the success and scalability of Finablr's platform is PEaaS, which standardizes the process of building new products and services. It gets its name from the description of precisely what it does ­ product engineering-as-a-service.

At the heart of the PEaaS offering is an IP-led product engineering focus, which is built on a three-step roadmap: product, patent, people.

"When the team at PEaaS starts to develop a product, it becomes an integral part of the business, taking on complete ownership of the overall consumer-centric business objectives. The patent is derived from relinquishing ownership of the intellectual property from PEaaS to the business. And the people ­ that's the team that worked on the new product ­ will transfer across to the business too," Desai says.

Called a POD, a small dedicated team of developers from PEaaS are engaged throughout the entire software product engineering lifecycle. They follow their creation as it moves from PEaaS to the customer, across its journey from patent to design to architecture, and on to development and hosting.

The PEaaS approach to development, with its closely-knit team members working in PODS and its focus on agile methodologies, enables Finablr to deliver fintech services at scale.

In essence, this has seen the initial creation of IP-led products and services that, in turn, are used as the basis of next-generation business solutions.

It's that focused approach to rapid, robust and scalable development that has meant Finablr is able to develop partnerships with global payment technology companies and ecosystems such as WeChat and Google.

Powered by India
Located in India and the US, PEaaS is part of the Finablr group and forms a key part of its product engineering capability, powering the deployment of next-generation customer experiences for the last mile.

With a highly skilled and motivated workforce, and a new generation of entrepreneurs, India is already firmly embedded in the global fintech scene, with three of the top 10 biggest deals last year involving Indian firms.

But there is more to the success of PEaaS than access to India's wealth of new IT product engineers. It has also nurtured and developed the right mindset to embrace digital transformation and facilitate agile working patterns.

"At PEaaS, we don't just hire someone who has the hard skills to a role's requirements," Desai explains.

"What really sets us apart and enables our people to do the great work they do is their mindset. That's the most important thing by far and it's the thing we're looking for."

An open mind
The history of IT projects has tended to be one of delivering large, finished products at the end of a long, iterative process. It's the opposite of agile, which demands you focus on a clear objective and deliver a minimum-viable product fast, knowing that you can then roll out continual improvements based on user feedback.

The ability to work in this agile way is one of the cornerstones of surviving in the era of disruption.

To create a successful agile organization, it's not only product engineers who should embrace the approach. It should also be adopted by everyone as part of a broad cultural shift, including those at the very top.

This is the mindset that has been adopted at Finablr, PEaaS and all its associated companies. Combined with cutting-edge technological advances, it will unleash the value required from the significant investments being made in the fintech sector.

As we have seen, the opportunities for further growth and innovation are huge ­ and Finablr has positioned itself to reap the maximum rewards.

In his role as Group Chief Technology Officer at Finablr, Mehul drives the Finablr digital agenda with a focus on platform strategy and innovation efforts. With over 25 years of experience in the Financial Services industry, Mehul has been at the forefront of fintech innovation. He is widely acknowledged as a global Subject Matter Expert in the field of secure personalized transactions with more than 25 patents issued to his credit. Mehul serves on the board of several companies and is an expert in-residence at the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Chicago.